03/19/15 5:00pm
03/19/2015 5:00 PM
Southold/Greenport catcher Rosemary Volinski is one of the veterans among a turnout of about 36 players. (Credit: Garret Meade)

Southold/Greenport catcher Rosemary Volinski is one of the veterans among a turnout of about 36 players. (Credit: Garret Meade)

PREVIEW

Quantity can lead to quality in high school softball. The more players a coach has to choose from, the better a team’s chances for winning. Large numbers can produce a big number in the win column.

Numbers are what coach Lori Marra saw when she walked into the Southold High School gym last week for Southold/Greenport’s first practice. Over 30 players had gathered. The turnout surprised Marra and some of the players themselves.

Where did all these players come from? (more…)

04/28/14 7:58pm
04/28/2014 7:58 PM
Center Moriches' Cassy Smith tags out Southold/Greenport's Heather Jarvis, who tried to steal second base in the fifth inning. (Credit: Garret Meade)

Center Moriches’ Cassy Smith tags out Southold/Greenport’s Heather Jarvis, who tried to steal second base in the fifth inning. (Credit: Garret Meade)

RED DEVILS 16, CLIPPERS 0 (5 INNINGS)

After spending a game puzzling the Southold/Greenport batters, Center Moriches pitcher Erin Creen was puzzled herself moments after Monday’s high school softball game when her coach, Rich Roberts, handed her the game ball and offered his congratulations.

Congratulations? For what?

That is when Creen was told she had just thrown a no-hitter. Roberts said Creen’s face lit up with a big smile.

“I didn’t even know,” she said.

In retrospect, Creen figured, that might have been a good thing. “I feel like if I knew … I probably was going to get nervous and like probably screw it up or something,” she said.

Creen was lost in the moment as she went about hurling her first no-hitter since she was in Little League. With 13 hits of support (four of them doubles), she helped Center Moriches to a 16-0 defeat of the visiting Clippers in a game that was stopped after four and half innings because of the 12-run mercy rule.

The closest the Clippers (2-11 overall and in Suffolk County League V) came to getting a hit off the junior right-hander was in the fourth inning when Jessica Rizzo led off by pounding a grounder that glanced off the second baseman’s glove for an error.

Creen, a pitcher known for her control, induced six outs by groundouts, five on strikeouts and two on flyouts. She also received some help from her friends. Center Moriches (12-2, 12-1) turned a double play and its catcher, Megan Ricci, threw a runner out trying to steal second base. Creen issued three walks — to Stephanie Clark, Heather Jarvis and Kendra King — while facing three batters over the minimum.

Creen, who splits the team’s pitching duties with Kiley Nolan, said she felt as if she had good command of the assorted screwballs, curveballs and rise balls that she threw.

“I thought she was great, I do,” Southold/Greenport coach Lori Marra said. “She had really great movement. … Even when she threw a few balls, she came right back. At no point did she lose control at all.”

Befitting a team that started the day tied with Babylon for first place, Center Moriches provided Creen with a steady supply of runs, scoring two in the first, seven in the second, three in the third and four in the fourth.

The Nos. 5 and 6 batters in Center Moriches’ order, Caroline Casey and Erin Capozzi, drove in three runs each while the No. 8 batter, Emily Pettit, knocked in a pair of runs herself. All but one of the Center Moriches starters had at least one hit.

Capozzi lined a single in the first, scoring the game’s first two runs.

Center Moriches didn’t waste time adding to that lead. The following inning the Red Devils produced five hits, including a two-run double by Casey and a two-run single by Pettit, as they pulled away to a 9-0 lead.

The Red Devils helped their cause by drawing 11 walks.

The highlight of the day for the Clippers was the defensive play of King. King stood out in right field, catching all four balls hit her way. She covered a lot of ground to grab a popup by Alexa Andersen that took her into foul territory just beyond first base.

“I think this is probably her best game and she showed it,” Marra said. “Right field doesn’t always get a lot of attention, and to have that much attention and to have her execute every time is awesome.”

King, describing the season, called it “a work in progress.”

The Clippers had all of their players available for the first time this season. Regardless, they knew they were in for a tough time against Center Moriches, which had beaten them by 12-0 on April 8.

A week from today Center Moriches will have a showdown with Babylon in Babylon in a game that could determine who the league champion will be. Babylon beat Center Moriches, 8-4, earlier this season.

Center Moriches is seeking its first league title since 2012. The Red Devils, who finished second behind Shoreham-Wading River last year, unquestionably have talent.

“When you hit the ball, you catch the ball and you pitch, it makes coaching kind of easy,” said Roberts.

As does the occasional no-hitter. Creen clearly enjoyed the experience. She said, “I would suggest that any pitcher work to throw one because it’s a great feeling afterwards.”

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03/20/14 3:00pm
03/20/2014 3:00 PM

Utility player Jessica Rizzo is one of Southold/Greenport’s four returning seniors. (Credit: Garret Meade, file)

Lori Marra hears her players talking, and she likes what she’s hearing.

“They’re talking about winning games,” the Southold/Greenport high school softball coach said. “That is something that we had to get to the point where now we know we can win.”  (more…)

03/10/14 8:46pm
03/10/2014 8:46 PM
Sarah Tuthill, a junior right-hander known for her calmness under pressure, is Southold/Greenport's new starting pitcher. (Credit: Garret Meade)

Sarah Tuthill, a junior right-hander known for her calmness under pressure, is Southold/Greenport’s new starting pitcher. (Credit: Garret Meade)

Sarah Tuthill sounds understandably excited about her new opportunity. Her calmness should help.

The Southold/Greenport high school softball team’s new starting pitcher has a calm demeanor that may be ideally suited for what could be considered the sport’s most pressure-packed position. And that calmness can act like a contagion. (more…)

05/02/13 6:53pm
05/02/2013 6:53 PM
GARRET MEADE PHOTO | Southold/Greenport's Jessica Rizzo was tagged out at home plate by Mattituck catcher Brittany Tumulty for the game's final out.

GARRET MEADE PHOTO | Southold/Greenport’s Jessica Rizzo was tagged out at home plate by Mattituck catcher Brittany Tumulty for the game’s final out.

TUCKERS 1, CLIPPERS 0

Before the North Fork’s two high school softball teams, Southold/Greenport and Mattituck, played their only game against each other this year on Thursday, Mattituck catcher Brittany Tumulty suggested a name for the game. “The North Fork championship game,” she dubbed it.

The fictitious title goes to the Tuckers, by the slimmest of margins.

Mattituck shortstop Melissa Siegfried threw Southold/Greenport’s Jessica Rizzo out at home plate for the final out of the game, preserving a 1-0 triumph for the Tuckers at Mattituck High School.

“I just saw the flash of red going home, and everyone was screaming,” said Siegfried.

In winning, Mattituck (4-8, 4-7 League VII) kept alive its slim playoff chances. The Tuckers would need to win their remaining five regular-season games in order to reach the postseason.

The League VII/League VIII crossover game’s only run, from the first inning, stood up on a day when hits were hard to come by. An infield single by Siegfried, followed by walks to Tumulty and Courtney Ficner, loaded the bases for Sara Perkins, who delivered a sacrifice fly for the score.

Then the pitchers clamped down. Perkins had a one-hitter going for much of the game before Southold/Greenport came up with two hits in the seventh. Rizzo chopped an infield single that had the effect of a bunt, beating Perkins’ throw to first base. Rizzo went on to steal second base. One out later, Alexandra Small bounced a single up the middle and Southold/Greenport coach Lori Marra sent Rizzo home on the play.

“I had to go for it,” Marra said. “Honestly, [hits] were so hard to come by, I didn’t know if we were going to get another opportunity so, hey, I don’t regret it.”

Siegfried collected the ball and fired an accurate throw to Tumulty, who blocked the plate and tagged Rizzo out to end it.

“I just tried my hardest,” Rizzo said. “It was pretty close.”

Perkins, coming off a no-hitter against The Stony Brook School two days earlier, was sharp again. She allowed three hits and recorded nine strikeouts, two shy of her season-high. And then there was the statistic that the Tuckers had to love: no walks.

“I think she pitched great today,” Marra said. “Clearly, we weren’t hitting off her much, so that says a lot for itself because we have been improving so much with our hitting.”

Perkins retired the first 10 batters before finally conceding a hit when Kim Bracken whacked a double past left fielder Lisa Angell.

Mattituck scratched out four hits against pitchers Sarah Tuthill and Courtney O’Sullivan. In addition to Siegfried, Cassie Pelan, Perkins and Val Hommel also singled for the Tuckers.

“We had some shots,” Mattituck coach Kelly Pickering said. “We were hitting the ball hard. Unfortunately for us, but fortunately for them, they were in the spots that they needed to be in. We definitely drove some balls deep. The bats were working, it was just unfortunately to everybody.”

Because Southold/Greenport (3-8, 3-8 League VIII) was playing the third of four games in four days, Marra opted to start Tuthill, a sophomore, and give O’Sullivan, the team’s No. 1 pitcher, some rest. Tuthill pitched the first three innings before O’Sullivan, a senior, relieved her, giving up only one hit over three innings. O’Sullivan had tossed a five-hit shutout the day before in a 6-0 win over Port Jefferson.

Speaking about the game against Mattituck, Rizzo said: “It was a tight, close game. We figured it was going to be close.”

Adding spice to the game was the familiarity among the players from the two neighboring teams.

“We wanted to win so badly because we heard the chatter from them and they heard the chatter from us,” said Siegfried.

Siegfried said it was probably Mattituck’s most exciting game of the season. Perhaps it was a little too close and a little too exciting for Pickering’s liking, but the coach had to like how Siegfried played, especially in the clutch.

“Like everybody else, she goes through ups and downs, but she’s one of the more consistent offensive and defensive players that we have,” Pickering said. “She’s definitely reliable. If I need her to bunt, she’ll lay one down. Whatever you need, you’re going to get out of her.”

After the game, after all of her teammates had left the field, Siegfried recounted the thrilling ending, and what it meant to the Tuckers.

“It was intense,” the heroine with the walk-off assist said. “We proved to ourselves that we can hang in there.”

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GARRET MEADE PHOTO | Mattituck shortstop Melissa Siegfried snagging the ball before throwing home for the game-ending out.

GARRET MEADE PHOTO | Mattituck shortstop Melissa Siegfried snagging the ball before throwing home for the game-ending out.

04/30/13 7:09pm
04/30/2013 7:09 PM
GARRET MEADE PHOTO | Southold/Greenport catcher Wendy Peterson caught a throw from third baseman Alexandra Small for a forceout at home plate of Center Moriches' Cheyenne Raimondi.

GARRET MEADE PHOTO | Southold/Greenport catcher Wendy Peterson caught a throw from third baseman Alexandra Small for a forceout at home plate of Center Moriches’ Cheyenne Raimondi.

RED DEVILS 14, CLIPPERS 2 (5 INNINGS)

Not much explanation is needed for the Center Moriches softball team’s nine-game winning streak. As the team’s coach, Rich Roberts, himself pointed out, talent wins.

And, oh boy, do the Red Devils have talent. They have strong pitching. They have sound defense. They have productive bats. And, to top it off, they have the focus and desire that they hope will bring them back-to-back league championships and a fourth straight appearance in a county final.

“When we’re clicking, we’re a very good team,” said Roberts.

On Tuesday, Southold/Greenport senior Courtney O’Sullivan was in the unenviable position of being the opposing pitcher at Center Moriches High School. Facing the fearsome Center Moriches lineup sounds daunting. Was O’Sullivan intimidated?

“Not really,” she said. “For me it’s more fun because it’s like I’m playing with my own friends. I’m playing with my own team.”

In a sense, she was. O’Sullivan and another Southold/Greenport player, Kim Bracken, know the Center Moriches players well enough. They both played for Roberts’ summer league team.

That also means they knew only too well what they were up against in Tuesday’s League VII/League VIII crossover game. And so did their coach, Lori Marra.

“They’re a strong team,” Marra said. “They’ve been a strong team for a long time. They have great coaching and all that. I wasn’t surprised. I kind of come here expecting them to be tough.”

She was right on the mark.

GARRET MEADE PHOTO | Southold/Greenport shortstop Caitlin Grilli was the picture of focus while fielding this ground ball.

GARRET MEADE PHOTO | Southold/Greenport shortstop Caitlin Grilli was the picture of focus while fielding this ground ball.

Center Moriches’ talent shined once again. The Red Devils rang up eight runs in the bottom of the fifth inning, putting an early end to their game against Southold/Greenport. With Center Moriches’ eighth hit of the inning and 17th hit of the game, Ally Marchese looped a run-scoring single over the second baseman, Bracken, for a 14-2 score, satisfying the 12-run mercy rule and ending the game, a one-hitter for Erin Creen.

Roberts said he has co-No. 1 pitchers in Kiley Nolan and Creen, who suffered a concussion earlier in the year.

Creen posted nine strikeouts and issued three walks. The only hit Southold/Greenport managed off the sophomore right-hander was Bracken’s single to right field to lead off the fourth inning.

“She did a good job,” Roberts said. “She attacked the strike zone.”

Through three innings, Southold/Greenport was trailing by 6-0 before showing some signs of offensive life in the fourth. The Clippers put up two runs that inning, pulling themselves back into the game.

It started with Bracken’s hit. She advanced two bases on the same play because Center Moriches threw the ball around for a pair of errors. Then Jessica Rizzo reached base on a fielder’s choice. She hit the ball back to Creen, who stared down Bracken at third and didn’t throw to any base. Bracken then scored on a double steal. Two walks and an out later, a groundout by Willow Sutton brought in the second run.

It made things interesting, but not for long.

In the fifth, Center Moriches did what good teams do: It blew the game open.

“Like I told the girls before the game, every game is separate and you respect your opponent,” Roberts said. “Southold made some plays when we hit balls hard and they kept themselves in the game. They gave themselves an opportunity. Luckily for us, we hit some balls hard the next inning and we broke it open.”

By the time it was over, Cheyenne Raimondi, Cierra Smith and Caroline Casey all went 3 for 4 and drove in two runs apiece for Center Moriches (11-1, 10-1 League VII), which began the day tied with Shoreham-Wading River for first place. Alexa Andersen, Emily Pettit and Marchese also finished with two runs batted in each.

The Clippers dropped to 2-7 overall and in League VIII, but Marra said there have been encouraging signs.

“I think they’re really learning how to play together,” she said. “Last year, obviously, we were all getting used to each other, but now they’re so much more comfortable on the field. They’re definitely hitting better. They’re executing the plays much better, and they don’t look scared. They have a lot more confidence.”

Bracken said: “Compared to the last couple of years, I think we’re really coming along. We’re improving every single game. We’re becoming more mentally tough every single time we face a hard team like this, and I’m proud of my team for sticking in there. There were a couple of errors in the outfield and infield that could have been prevented, but the more we see that, the more we can improve.”

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04/09/13 8:50pm
04/09/2013 8:50 PM
GARRET MEADE PHOTO | Ali Hulse swung for two hits and two runs batted in for Bishop McGann-Mercy in its comeback win over Southold/Greenport.

GARRET MEADE PHOTO | Ali Hulse swung for two hits and two runs batted in for Bishop McGann-Mercy in its comeback win over Southold/Greenport.

MONARCHS 9, CLIPPERS 8

For Southold/Greenport, an away game against Bishop McGann-Mercy has been something to look forward to. Stotzky Memorial Park, McGann-Mercy’s softball home in Riverhead, is one of the nicer venues on Southold/Greenport’s schedule.

For the Clippers, though, Stotzky Memorial Park is fast becoming a house of horrors.

McGann-Mercy, which trailed by as many as seven runs, turned in a four-run rally in the bottom of the seventh inning to triumph, 9-8, on Tuesday.

Ali Hulse’s bunt single brought in Victoria Pace for the tying run, and Shannon Willmott followed her home on the play as a result of a throwing error for the come-from-behind victory. It was McGann-Mercy’s first and only lead of the game.

“I can’t remember a time when we had a game like this in a while,” said Willmott.

Willmott was immediately reminded by a reporter of the last time these teams played at Stotzky, almost a year ago to the day. In last year’s game, two errors sandwiched around a Karlin McIntyre double in the bottom of the seventh enabled the Monarchs to salvage a thrilling 2-1 triumph.

Miscues (including six errors) by Southold/Greenport also contributed to this latest collapse.

GARRET MEADE PHOTO | Irene Raptopoulos of Southold/Greenport watching the single she slapped to start the game.

GARRET MEADE PHOTO | Irene Raptopoulos of Southold/Greenport watching the single she slapped to start the game.

Claire Sullivan started the winning rally for the Monarchs (3-1 overall, 3-1 League VIII) when she was hit by a pitch before later scoring on a groundout by Cassie Densieski. Katie Nolan, who had bounced a single through the infield, scored herself on a single by Pace, slicing Southold/Greenport’s lead to 8-7. After a Willmott single, Michaela Zebrowski turned in what might have been the at-bat of the game. Zebrowski fouled off six pitches from Courtney O’Sullivan before striking out. The third strike was dropped, however, and as a result of two errors on the play, the rally stayed alive as Hulse stepped up to the plate with one out.

Willmott said she liked games ending this way. “It keeps everyone in suspense,” she said. “It keeps everyone on their toes, and no one’s getting bored.”

Of course, the Clippers might have had a different opinion.

“I always tell the girls, ‘Don’t get comfortable’ ” with a lead, Southold/Greenport coach Lori Marra said. “I don’t think they did here. I can’t even put it on that. I think that both teams were making really great plays.”

The game started so promisingly for Southold/Greenport (0-2, 0-2), which put up six runs in the first inning and led, 7-0, after two.

“I think once it hit really everyone hard that we were losing 7 to 0, it finally kicked in and we did what we had to do,” said Willmott.

McGann-Mercy pulled itself back in the game. Jackie Zaweski singled in McGann-Mercy’s first run in the third. Then the Monarchs followed that with a four-run burst in the fourth. They undoubtedly got a shot of confidence that inning as Pace, Willmott (two-run double), Zabrowski (run-scoring single) and Hulse (run-scoring single) strung together four straight hits to bring in those runs.

“That inning gave us a lot of confidence,” McGann-Mercy coach Frank Baker said, “and at the bottom of the seventh inning, I called them all together and said to them: ‘We can win the game. All you’ve got to do is put the bat on the ball and be strong. Swing harder.’ ”

When Southold/Greenport was clinging to a 7-5 lead, one could sense a momentum shift. Willmott said, “I kind of noticed that the other team’s confidence was slowly shattering.”

McGann-Mercy’s leadoff batter, Willmott, had a three-hit game as did Pace. Willmott scored three runs. Altogether, the Monarchs totaled 16 hits.

Kim Bracken went 4 for 4 and drove in three runs — all on infield singles — for Southold/Greenport. She also scored a run and stole a base.

“I’m disappointed,” Southold/Greenport first baseman Nicole Busso said, “but I think that we were very equally matched teams, and I honestly can’t wait to play them again because I know that it will be a good game no matter what.”

McGann-Mercy had been involved in only one-sided games before this. The Monarchs had beaten The Stony Brook School, 26-4, and Port Jefferson, 30-7, in addition to suffering a 15-0 loss to Babylon. Pulling out a win in a close game brought value.

Baker said he felt good about his team’s chances in the bottom of the seventh.

“I felt very strongly that they were going to do something because they had to do it, and it was just a matter of putting the bat on the ball and hustling on bases,” he said. “Under pressure, they seem to get stronger.”

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03/13/13 8:00pm
03/13/2013 8:00 PM
GARRET MEADE FILE PHOTO | Nicole Busso, a senior first baseman, has been a regular starter for Southold/Greenport since the second game of her freshman season.

GARRET MEADE FILE PHOTO | Nicole Busso, a senior first baseman, has been a regular starter for Southold/Greenport since the second game of her freshman season.

One can only imagine what was going through Nicole Busso’s mind when, two games into the 2010 high school softball season, she was thrust right into Southold/Greenport’s starting lineup as a freshman first baseman alongside another freshman at the time, second baseman Kim Bracken. Surely, they must have felt some trepidation upon making their varsity debuts in that game.

“It would have been a lot scarier for the both of us if we weren’t together,” said Bracken, who has played on the same team with Busso ever since they were teammates on an all-star team as sixth graders.

The two seniors have remained on the scene ever since, playing side by side. They are entering their fourth season as varsity starters.

“It doesn’t seem like that long ago, honestly, at all,” Busso said after she was reminded of her entrance to the varsity scene. “… It all seems like yesterday.”

One thing Busso and Bracken didn’t forget was what it felt like to be the youngest players on the team. That has affected their leadership roles this year as the team’s most senior members, the only two remaining players from that 2010 team.

“Since me and Nicole were the youngest on the team, we both understand that,” Bracken said. “Nicole always gives back to the younger girls. She says: ‘Hi, I’m Nicole. If you have any questions, ask me.’ ”

Busso said: “The freshmen, specifically, are so open with me, and I love that. I’m not trying to be a big, scary senior. That’s not the mentality behind us. We want them to be able to come up to us and to ask us questions.”

That’s just one of the qualities Southold/Greenport coach Lori Marra likes in Busso, who has been a regular, consistent contributor for the Clippers.

“She knows first base,” Marra said. “She’s been playing first base for a long time. She’s not just good at it, she has experience with it. It’s a spot she’s really confident in. She also has a good bat. She’s a pretty well-rounded player.”

Busso was introduced to softball at a young age. She played T-ball and Little League. Her instinct and quick reactions made first base a natural position for her.

“I always had a love for softball,” she said during an interview before Tuesday’s indoor practice at Southold High School. “Honestly, it’s just kind of natural. I’ve grown up playing sports. I can’t imagine my life next year without any of them.”

The Clippers may be reluctant to ponder what life will be like without Busso, who is known for giving all her effort all the time.

Busso said her junior high school coach, Bev Sage, praised her for being the best first baseman she ever coached.

Busso never sat out a softball game for the Clippers because of injury. In her sophomore season she missed some games while she went on a school trip to Europe. Other than that, she has been a regular in Southold/Greenport’s lineup.

Although Southold/Greenport had a rough season last year, going 1-15, Busso played well. “I had a pretty good season,” she said. “We didn’t have the bats last year, either, but I had some nice hits. I had a home run. I hit a triple against Mattituck. I had some hits that were pretty helpful during the season.”

Last season, Busso typically batted third or fourth in the order.

“She’s around there,” Marra said. “She’s also fast, so I have to keep that in mind. She runs the bases well. She has that aggressive, smart running mentality.”

During games, Busso said, she can be loud when she has to be. “I’m vocal and very loud and, I don’t know, I’m just always that voice behind everyone, cheering, just positive energy, trying to keep everyone up,” she said.

But it is Busso’s attitude off the field as well that has been noticed and appreciated.

“Nicole is a very generous player,” Bracken said. “She’s very humble as an athlete. She doesn’t expect the praise at the end, and when she doesn’t get the most recognition, she’s never upset by that because she’s such a team player, and I think that’s a great asset to the team.”

Busso recognizes that she is fortunate to have so many high school games under her belt. She prefers not to consider the end of that playing career, which is just beyond the horizon.

“That’s crazy to think about,” she said. “I don’t even like thinking about it. I don’t want it to end any time soon, so I’m hoping we can pick it up, get to the playoffs and see how well we can do.”

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03/13/13 12:00pm
GARRET MEADE FILE PHOTO | Caitlin Grilli played shortstop last season for Southold/Greenport. Coach Lori Marra believes Grilli could play third base.

GARRET MEADE FILE PHOTO | Caitlin Grilli played shortstop last season for Southold/Greenport. Coach Lori Marra believes Grilli could play third base.

Two thousand and twelve was hardly a banner year for high school softball on the North Fork. Southold/Greenport and Mattituck combined for a meager two wins, one win apiece. The good thing about that for both teams, though, is there is pretty much only one direction for them to go: up.

“I do feel that way,” said Lori Marra, who is in her second year as Southold/Greenport’s coach. “I’m hoping that we can only go up.”

It helps the Clippers (1-15 last year) that they lost only two players to graduation. One of them was Alexis Reed, the team’s most valuable player who held the starting third base position for three years.

Who will play third this year remains a question. “I have some ideas about what we’re going to be doing with third base,” said Marra.

Caitlin Grilli, Jessica Rizzo and Skye Gillispie battled over the shortstop position last year. “I also have confidence that they can also play third, but Sarah Tuthill is definitely somebody that I’m thinking for third base,” said Marra. She noted that a couple of other players have expressed an interest in playing third base, too, because they know it’s an open position.

The other question marks are in the outfield.

“I think for us a big component is our outfield, just having girls who are solid out there who can read the ball and get the ball in fast,” said Marra.

Leah LaFreniere and Alexandra Small played in the outfield last year, but Marra said she is not sure if she will leave them there or pull them into the infield. Irene Raptopoulos and Willow Sutton are outfield possibilities, too.

Figuring out who will play where is like trying to solve a jigsaw puzzle.

“It is,” Marra agreed. “It’s just a matter of figuring out which player fits the pieces.”

The other change for Southold/Greenport will be behind the plate, with Wendy Peterson taking over at catcher. She will catch pitches from fellow senior Courtney O’Sullivan, who returns as the team’s No. 1 pitcher.

The Clippers are led by two four-year starters, first baseman Nicole Busso and second baseman Kim Bracken. They are both seniors.

Joining the team’s nine returning players are five newcomers. Among them are Brandi Gonzalez and Jamie Grigonis. Marra said their positions are undetermined.

“We’re just taking one piece of the game at a time and gradually putting it all together right now,” Marra said. “One of our biggest things is them having that confidence that they can compete with these other teams. Once they grasp that concept, I really do think that they have it in them, and that competitive drive can take over.”

GARRET MEADE FILE PHOTO | The state of pitcher Sara Perkins' left knee could be critical to Mattituck's success this year.

GARRET MEADE FILE PHOTO | The state of pitcher Sara Perkins’ left knee could be critical to Mattituck’s success this year.

The feeling that better days are ahead can be sensed at Mattituck’s practices. Kelly Pickering, who coached the Tuckers for two years before Rick Hinrichs took over from her for the past two years, is back in charge of the team. Mattituck, which went 8-27 during Pickering’s first two years, is looking to bounce back from a 1-16 season. Pickering said things are “definitely looking up. If Sara [Perkins] can remain healthy, that would be a big bonus for us.”

Indeed, the status of Perkins’ left knee is a great concern for the Tuckers. Mattituck’s No. 1 pitcher saw her 2012 season come to an end in mid-April because of knee trouble, one of a series of injuries that sabotaged the team’s season. The right-hander said her knee is fine now and she is looking forward to a full senior season.

A healthy Perkins would be a plus for a team that is light on numbers. Mattituck has only 11 players, and that includes junior left fielder Sam Perino, who has mononucleosis and hasn’t practiced yet.

At the same time, however, eight of those 11 players are seniors.

“All my bases are covered except my numbers,” said Pickering.

The projected lineup has Brittany Tumulty catching, Courtney Ficner playing first base, Cassie Pelan at second base, Melissa Siegfried at shortstop, Alexa Orlando at third base and Alex Chowbay in center field. The left field and right field positions are open. Pickering said it looks like Lisa Angell, the relief pitcher, will play left field, with Sydney Goy or Jackie Jones going to right field.

“They’ve looked pretty good,” Pickering said. “Melissa has grown, Alexa Orlando has grown.”

Chowbay, who transferred to the school last year when she first joined the team, “has been a great, great asset to the program,” Pickering said. “She’s going to be a good team leader, a field leader.”

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03/05/13 2:09pm
03/05/2013 2:09 PM
GARRET MEADE PHOTO | Southold/Greenport catcher Wendy Peterson during Monday's practice.

GARRET MEADE PHOTO | Southold/Greenport catcher Wendy Peterson during Monday’s practice.

It was only minutes after their 2012 high school softball season had ended — a 1-15 season at that — and Southold/Greenport players, brimming with optimism, were already talking excitedly about the season to come.

That season is almost here. On Monday, the Clippers hit the chilly outdoors for their first practice.

“They look motivated and they look ready to go,” the team’s second-year coach, Lori Marra, said.

Perhaps an asterisk should accompany that 1-15 record. Southold/Greenport had an extremely young team last year, with some players having made the huge leap from junior high school softball to the varsity team, skipping the junior varsity level entirely. This year’s squad is just plain young, led by four seniors: second baseman Kim Bracken, first baseman Nicole Busso, pitcher Courtney O’Sullivan and catcher Wendy Peterson.

On the plus side, younger players like shortstop Jessica Rizzo, shortstop Caitlin Grilli, outfielder Alexandra Small, outfielder Leah LaFreniere and shortstop Skye Gillispie all bring valuable playing experience at the varsity level. The only two players lost to graduation last year were catcher Erin Creedon and third baseman Alexis Reed.

“We’re going to keep pushing forward and see where the season takes us,” said Busso, who is a four-year varsity player along with Bracken. “There’s a lot of positive energy being thrown around, and [the younger players are] not really as shy as I expected. They’re very open. They’re asking questions, so that’s a good thing.”

One of the biggest questions facing the Clippers this year is whether or not they will hit better. Bringing runs home across the plate is a high priority.

“In order to win games, you got to put runs on the board,” Marra said. “We definitely need to get our bats going. We worked a lot last year, building, building, building, but this year I’m hoping that we can just take what we did last year and just kind of move forward, have more confidence. Confidence is a big factor.”

Bracken, for one, sounds like she has more confidence in her left knee, which was operated on last November. “I’m still wearing my knee braces, but I’m pretty confident that I’m going to last the whole season,” she said.

The Clippers also took more than a single win from last season.

“I think last year with our record, each of us learned how to take a loss and how to look at the positives more than the negatives of losing a game,” said Busso.

Chilly weather or not, the first practice marked a new beginning for a team hoping to make progress.

“Everyone’s optimistic; they’re excited to play,” Marra said. “It is an exciting time.”

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